At the end of each year, our Navigate Adventure students set off on a two week ‘extreme trek’. This is their last intensive together for the year. Partnering with Global Mission Partners (GMP), we hope to expose them to a different culture and to challenge the way they think about the world around them and their faith.
This year the group embarked on a journey to India. Some of the students had never been out of Australia, so landing in India was a huge sensory overload. It is a country that is buzzing with sights, sounds, smells and colours so different to Australia.
We spent our first five days in Mumbai. There we had the opportunity to visit two slum churches that are supported by Churches of Christ in India. We were welcomed into their small but lively churches where we praised God together, prayed together, ate together and shared stories with each other. We were very appreciative to our brothers and sisters in Christ who shared what they had with us, even though we were strangers.
We then spent two days in the second poorest slum in Mumbai. At first the slum seemed similar to the one we had been to church in, however the further we walked in, the worse the conditions were. The people living there were gypsy Indians (who are lower than the lowest caste and considered filthy, impure and lesser than human). We were shocked by the conditions that people were living in. However, within this slum the church is well and alive.
Because space and resources are limited, there are house churches planted throughout this slum. There are leaders being trained and equipped to lead these churches, some as young as 17 and 18. The spirit of God is moving in this place. We felt and experienced a part of this as we were welcomed into their small communities to share life together as brothers and sisters. One of the students, Hannah shared this of her experience in the slums, “I was most deeply impacted by the contrast between the rich and the poor because they were literally living so close to each other. I was really challenged to be more grateful for what I have, and also challenged by the steadfast and deep faith and hope by so many of the Indian Christians that we had the privilege of meeting.”
From Mumbai, we flew to Central India where we spent a week with GMP’s partner Hosanna Ministries. We were welcomed through the gates of Gnyan Sampada Residential School with singing, drumming and smiles from all the children and teachers. We all felt an incredible sense of peace as we stayed here with our hosts Kiron, Nalini, Daniel and Glory. They opened their hearts to us as they shared their stories and passion for mission with us.
We spent the week teaching classes at the school, playing hours of sport and games, dancing, singing, praising God and sharing life as the body of Christ. We captured a glimmer of the Kingdom of God at this school. There was great sadness in some of the children’s stories, but to see their lives being restored and their future having hope was clearly of God. It was hard to leave the beautiful children, but to us they imparted a pure joy that stayed with us as we headed on our journey.
We spent our last two days in Delhi debriefing our time in India as well as the year of Adventure. God has so evidently left a fingerprint on each of the students as they embraced this trip to India. One of the students Lauren reflected this, “Being in India brought to the surface a spirit of fear I hadn't realised was consuming me. When we are stripped of Western luxuries and distractions, it becomes less desirable to turn away from what is lurking in the depths of our hearts. I realise this may be why the people we met in India have hearts of gold. They were so genuine and transparent; there were no facades. How refreshing and profoundly impacting it was to be surrounded by those whose hearts are so wide open. I loved hearing their stories and learning from their lives and their culture. India has left a beautiful imprint on me.”
India was a challenge to each of us in different ways. The exposure to a new culture brought a shift in judgements, awareness and perceptions of the students. And the poverty we witnessed stirred a wrestle with faith and obedience. We are very grateful to all our hosts as well as GMP for supporting us as we made this journey.
Learn more about Hosanna Ministries
Learn more about NAVIGATE